Secession Era Editorials Project

The Non-Intervention Principle.

Springfield, Illinois, Illinois State Register [Democratic]

(31 January 1854)

We find among the professed friends of the compromise a few who repudiate it in connection with the Nebraska bill now pending in the United States senate. All persons found in this category of opposition may be pointedly put down as incincere in their compromise professions. They may resort to sublimated logic, to subterfuges and evasions, but they cannot possibly escape from this plain proposition, viz: that the compromise of 1850 meant something, and that if it meant anything if it was it not mere child's play - if it was not a mere theory without any design of fulfillment, it certainly was planned and agreed to for the purpose of putting an end to any further effort on the part of congress to meddle with the domestic institutions of the territories, or of territories seeking admission as states, or districts of country asking to be organized into territories.

We lay it down as a proposition which cannot be escaped from, that no man can rank himself with the compromise friends of 1850 without subscribing fully to the principles embraced in the Douglas Nebraska bill. It is an embodiment of the spirit, meaning and object of that compromise, and no sophistry can make the masses of the country think differently. This billt gives the tender-footed subscribers to that compromise an opportunity to show their hands, or, in other words, it compels them to come out of their holes. We shall now see whether they have been honest. We shall now see whether they have supported it as an abstraction or a reality, a mere theory or a vital practical measure of safety, tranquillity and perpetuity. Sift the Douglas bill as you will, twist it into any form your ingenuity may suggest, and you can find nothing in it save the true meaning and intent of the compromise of '50, and every man who opposes the bill on grounds connected with the subject of slavery must be put down as an enemy of that compromise.

If the compromise amounts to anything it certainly requires that the new territories be left free to adopt or reject slavery the same as if they were states. Every state has a right to adopt slavery, and the territories, according to the compromise, should have the same right. If this is denied then nothing has been accomplished. It will be admitted by all that it was understood by the whole nation that the slavery question was put to rest by those measures. It was understood that new territories were to be admitted on the same footing with Utah and New Mexico -- that is, with the right to adopt or reject slavery, as they might choose. By this course, slavery could not again be brought into the halls of congress. The subject, so far as that arena is concerned, would have been put to rest, the very end which the country desired.

The views of the masses of our people, on this subject, are well known. No man will deny that Gen. Pierce was elected with a full knowledge, on the part of the voters, that he was for the compromise, and elected, too, by a majority of twenty-seven states to four. Was not this decisive enough? Did not the convention which nominated him declare that they were for the principles embraced in this Nebraska law, and did he not accept the nomination with a pledge to sustain that principle? If the people had been opposed to the principle would they not have voted against him? We hold that his election was a decision in favor of the principle, and, therefore, we infer that the masses are in favor of the Nebraska bill, and that the public sentiment will be outraged if it should be voted down. - The people are right on this subject, and they will hold their representatives responsible for any departure from what may be regarded as their plainly recorded behests.

In this view of it our congressional representatives have nothing to fear in boldly discharging their duty. The abolitionists and freesoilers will denounce them, of course, for when this Nebraska bill shall have become a law they will be deprived of their principle material for the manufacture of mischievous and dangerous agitation; and when this occurs the faction will fall. When their projects, discussions, and schemes can be driven out of congress they will lose all hope of dissolving the Union, and will measurably abandon their movements.

Now is the time to come up to the work, and we hope every true friend of the compromise measures, and every true lover of the Union, will come forward in support of the Nebraska bill. Now is the time to give practical effect to the leading principles which triumphed in the election of Pierce. We hope the democratic press of our state will continue to urge the passage of the law, and even if it should fail they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they were found battling on the side of their country, and principles of territorial and state rights, calculated to make our Union perpetual. The senseless cry that the friends of this bill are in favor of slavery will impose upon no one. The advocacy of it commits no one in favor of slavery. It simply leaves the people of Nebraska to decide the question for themselves. If we were there we would vote against slavery, and it will be found that if the territory is organized under this bill nine-tenths of the people will vote against the introduction of the institution. It was said that slavery would be introduced to Utah, New Mexico and California, but it was not done. The people of those territories decided against it, and so will the people of Nebraska. But this has nothing to do with the question we have been considering, and those who try to bring it in will find that the people understand the true value to be given to it. It is a question of state and territorial rights, of domestic tranquillity, national safety, and the integrity of the Union. In this view we believe every democrat of Illinois will "put himself on the record" in favor of the Douglas bill.


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